The Green Column #28

Here’s Your Chance to Help Update Comprehensive Plan

June 25, 2010—Local government will soon launch a year-long community dialogue to update the Comprehensive Plan of Lincoln and Lancaster County.

This is of special interest to citizens with a conservation attitude because last year the plan’s preamble was revised by the planning staff and the City Council to include for the first time the goal of sustainability. Here’s what that new language says:

“The Comprehensive Plan has long recognized the importance of building sustainable communities—communities that conserve and efficiently utilize our economic, social, and environmental resources so that the welfare of future generations is not sacrificed.

“This concept has grown in importance with increased understanding of the limits to energy supplies and community resources, the likelihood that energy costs will continue to increase in the future, and the climatic impacts of energy consumption.

“In a new century where these factors are likely to affect economic survival, we need to think about building communities that are resilient and adaptable to change. We should encourage economics that are sustainable, an attractive quality of life and a healthy environment so that long-term benefits are derived for our community.

“Sustainability, as a part of the Community Vision, now requires added attention.”

When this sustainability language was being considered last May, Planning Director Marvin Krout said the intent was to “open the door” to more community discussion.

Krout gave two examples of how Lincoln residents could alleviate future problems: by throwing away less garbage we could make the landfill last beyond 2035, and by reducing water use we could continue for a longer time to depend on Platte River wellfields.

Now is the time for local citizens to be thinking about other issues which could be updated with sustainability in mind.

For example, how can Lincoln’s future transportation needs be met in a world where fuel consumption is constrained by higher prices or restricted supplies?

How can Lincoln guarantee that superior soils are not paved over but instead are preserved for agricultural uses?

How can a plan for reduced energy consumption, in both residential and commercial buildings, new and retrofitted, be implemented as a means to extending the life of existing sources of power generation?

Can small-scale, distributed sources of electric power generation, as one alternative to carbon-based generation, be a viable part of Lincoln’s growth and development?

How do we get more public return on the public dollars spent for facilities and infrastructure? What public/private equity and resource sharing conditions can a plan outline for Lincoln’s future growth and maintenance of our desired quality of life and urban amenities—in a sustainable manner?

The revision of Comprehensive Plan 2040 must be completed by the end of 2011 to meet a federal deadline on the transportation section. As anyone who has followed local government knows, by the time revisions like this reach the official actions of elected officials and the public hearings required by law, most of the opportunity for change and compromise has already been exhausted.

However, Lincoln has had a long history of creating and using good, consensus-based comprehensive plan documents. Today, the nature of the city’s neighborhoods and the quality of the housing stock and neighborhood amenities, the lack of “slum” neighborhoods, the convenience of schools and public support facilities to housing, the contiguous and connected new developments at the edges of the city, and the extensive trails, walkways and public recreation areas are all products of citizen desires and expectations being articulated in a plan.

City government in Lincoln has been effective at “planning the work and working the plan.”

The opportunity to pause, think about new influences and potential changes for the future of Lincoln occurs every ten years. Now is the time for our visions to guide our planning.

Citizens wishing to have some early and effective input into the planning process have the following options:

  • Attending meetings of an advisory committee the mayor will be appointing, which will include the nine members of the Planning Commission plus 11 other citizens.
  • Attending public informational meetings the Planning Department will be scheduling at various locations around the city.
  • Submitting suggestions by phone, mail or e-mail to city officials, Planning Commission members or members of the Comprehensive Planning Advisory Committee.

Later, in 2011, the recommendations of the Advisory Committee and the Planning Department staff will be scheduled for public, open hearings before both the Lincoln/Lancaster County Planning Commission and the Lincoln City Council.

Cecil Steward has been appointed to serve on the Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee for the 2011 writing process.

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